Craddock on the Craft of Preaching

Craddock, Fred B., ed. Lee Sparks and Kathryn Hayes Sparks

Chalice, 2011

pp. 59 - 61

Craddock used to tell lots of stories and was good at it. Here he gives a little advice. Use as few words as possible, and especially as few adjectives. Let characters’ words and actions tell the audience who they are, not your piling up of explanatory adjectives. Don’t do that. Let the listeners do a little of the work and stay active in the process. Think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son as a model. Ring, robe, shoes, fatted calf, a father’s hug—that says it all. You’re there. But if you go on for any length you insult your listeners, who are perfectly capable of being with that father and son and of understanding what’s going on without your surfeit of explanations. Don’t tell listeners what they ought to feel when hearing a story. Just let them feel it. And use direct discourse the way Jesus did. Don’t paraphrase your characters. Quote them. And don’t, at some point, hold a mirror up to listeners and say, “’Aren’t we just like that Pharisee?’” Too obvious. Too disrespectful of listeners. If you’ve done your job in making that Pharisee come alive—perhaps in twenty-first-century draping—people will be looking in a mirror right along. They’ll already be looking.